FIVE SCENARIOS FOR A VACANT LOT IN NEW BEDFORD
Students Final Projects, Fall 2015
The final assignment entailed reviving a vacant lot at the intersection of Seven and Spring streets in New Bedford, MA. The lot sits across from the New Bedford Historical Society. The Society was the home of Nathan and Polly Johnson and is the only remaining structure in which the African-American social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass lived during his seven years in New Bedford (1838–45). In addition to proposing a sustainable design, students were required to study the history of the abolitionist movement and to celebrate some aspects of this movement through their design. In addition to accumulating the already existing information and history (visual, textual, or oral–see, for example Tourist Guide of Abolitionist Neighborhood), students provided suggestions for bettering the condition of the neighborhood. As individual members of the group, students submitted 4/5-page reports every two weeks (see samples of bi-weekly assignments). At the end of the semester these reports were refined and turned into a final project. Students presented their five proposals to the New Bedford Historical Society.
1. GATEWAY PARK: ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY AND INSTILLING HOPE
Gabrielle Monteiro – Political Science major and Sustainability minor
Hannah Gadbois – Art History major
Noah Eadie – Illustration major
Evan Foster – Marketing major
Adam Taves – History major
The two most essential goals behind our proposal for the vacant lot are to bring community members together and to commemorate historical figures. The lot that this project would exist on was originally a home in a prosperous area of town known for housing abolitionists. However, New Bedford’s economy declined as textile factories were outsourced and when the home burned down, the lot was left empty. Vacant lots are often considered an eyesore and an indication of a declining city.
Reworking this lot to create an area, where the community can come together, will bring vitality back to this historic neighborhood. Our proposal exists in three tiers. The first tier includes the most basic aspects of the plan, essentially what could be done with the smallest amount of funding. In this basic plan we would include a garden space with a walkway of shells to relate to the nautical aspect of New Bedford. The walkway would wind through the garden similar to the Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This tier would also include a featured podium, informational stands, and period-specific lighting that matches the recently installed lampposts on the rest of the street. The informational stands would be along the path throughout the garden so that as one enjoys the green space and community, they can also learn about the historical significance of the area. We have included a list of plants that could make up the garden. All of these plants are native, perennial, and low maintenance. Many of them are fragrant and would remain attractive during the Fall and Winter. The garden would only cover one half of the vacant lot and the rest would be left open for community events like a farmer’s market or artistic showing. This area would be covered with a hardy ground cover like clover that is also native to the area. Our second tier would include all of these as well as fencing, additional seating, and a stage. The stage is the heart of our design and would be constructed around the stairs that stand in the vacant lot. This stage would be open to local artists for plays, readings, historical reenactments, and musical events.
This space would encourage community involvement: local artists can put on shows, the historical society may hold events, and art and music students from UMass Dartmouth may use the space to show or perform work. It is also noteworthy that New Bedford does not have a permanent outdoor theater area and this space could fill that gap while also opening the opportunity for the New Bedford Historical Society to link more closely with AHA! Night. Our final tier includes seating in front of the stage, stage lighting, a boardwalk, and roofing. The boardwalk, inspired by the New York High Line, could be built in place of or over the seashell pathway. If tier three was completed when more funding was available, the boardwalk could be built over the seashell walkway and the seashells beneath would help prevent the boardwalk from rotting. These three tiers allow for flexibility in funding as well as for community involvement. If this proposal was accepted, an event could be held where community voices could be heard and their ideas could easily be integrated into this plan as it is malleable and open to community discussion.
2. LEWIS TEMPLE PARK: REVIVING THE NEIGHBORHOOD BY DESIGN
Nicole Arruda – Photography major
Samantha Brun – Illustration major
Nataki Degraffenreid – English major
Sam Eyong – Economics major and Sustainability minor
Tyler Gosson – Mechanical Engineering major and Sustainability minor
James Sevasin – Political Science major and Sustainability minor
The idea of the adjustable harpoon benches was inspired by a black inventor named Lewis Temple. He invented the whaling harpoon (also known as Temple’s Toggle). His invension became the standard harpoon of the whaling industry in mid-19th century. A skilled blacksmith, Lewis Temple was born a slave in Richmond, VA but moved to New Bedford, MA in 1829. By 1836, Temple was one of the 315,000 free African-Americans in the United States. He successfully operated a craft shop on the New Bedford waterfront.
Temple had many conversations with the whalers who came to his shop. Throughout the course of these conversations, Temple learned that what was available at the time was not effective in holding a struggling whale. In 1848, he invented a new type of harpoon, in which the head of temple became locked in the whale’s flesh.
Initially, whalers did not accept Temple’s harpoon. However, after some trials, most whaling captions came to appreciate Temple’s “Toggle Iron,” and realized that it was much better than the existing barbed head harpoon. Lewis Temple never patented his invention, but was able to make a good living from it. Due to an injury, Temple was unable to continue his business and destitute most significant invention in the history of whaling. However, his legacy remains. By designing adjustable benches, we celebrated Temple’s contribution to the whaling industry in New Bedford. During the process of our design, we were also inspired by other “adjustable” and “sustainable” examples. The “Open House” in York, Alabama was one example, among many others.
Open House in York Alabama inspired our design. The project uses the materials from an abandoned house. Through a clever design, the new house physically transforms from the shape of a house into an open air theater by having its walls and roof fold down.
Another source of inspiration for this project was Lewis Temple’s harpoon
Lewis Temple was born a slave in Richmond, VA but moved to New Bedford as a free man in 1829. By 1836, Temple became one of the most successful businessman and invented the harpoon. The reason why we came up with this proposal is because we wanted to honor Temple and his craftsmanship. the above image is Closeup view of the head of a real Temple toggle iron made by Lewis Temple. Image courtesy of the Whaling Museum (Kendall Collection, 2001.100.4122).
Design: Adjustable Harpoon Benches
A 3D drafting program used in Mechanical Engineering, called SolidWorks, was employed for visualizing our harpoon bench idea.
3. FREEDOM PARK: FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO POLLINATOR HIGHWAYS
Becca Purchase – Biology + Illustration major
Ashley Ciulla – Biology major and Sustainability minor
Meghan McGonagle – Graphic Design major
Tricia Thai – Mechanical Engineering major and Sustainability minor
Mike Sarfo – Illustration and Graphic Design major
As a group it was decided that the name of the park should be “Freedom Park” as opposed to “Abolitionist Park,” which Lee Blake (the director of the New Bedford Historical Society) had proposed at our first meeting. We named the park Freedom park because we wanted our space to symbolize not only the abolitionists, but the whole of the New Bedford community. This park serves as a reminder of how the abolitionists triumphed over adversity and delivered people their freedom. Additionally, we spent a long time contemplating the possibility of making references to historical figures and ideas.
Frederick Douglass was very important to the abolitionist movement and is still a very important figure to praise in American history, but we wanted to include more than his legacy in this design for community-empowering park. This being said, Freedom Park nods to the importance of the whaling industry, immigration, the Underground Railroad, and to Frederick Douglass himself. Lee Blake placed great emphasis on preserving the beautiful stone staircase. These steps stand as a tangible reminder of the home which once occupied the lot that we now seek to re-invent for better community empowerment and utilization. In our design the steps will lead to a sturdy space for a podium, to be used during honorable and exciting speeches. Guest speakers, award recipients, members of the community to be honored, and others will be able to proudly stand on these steps. We searched through the brochures from Historical Society and through quotations said by Frederick Douglass to find quotations and other inspiration. Our design reflects selection of the quotation most fitting: “Without struggle, there can be no progress” –Frederick Douglass Along the edges we included small plants that attract butterflies, such as rockcress (which is very easy to grow over stones) and useful cooking herbs such as mint and sage. Beautiful floral selections that are common to landscaping such as aster attract butterflies as well, and therefore serve both an ecological and aesthetic purpose in this design. Goldenrod and milkweed both help monarchs grow and build strength to make the long migration. Goldenrod is a bright yellow color, and plants like snapdragons which come in many bright colors will all add vibrancy to our park. The idea of our butterfly attracting plants was that the park will serve as a metaphorical underground railroad for pollinators.
This idea was inspired by a movement that is going on in Europe to create “pollinator highways” through cities. Europeans do so by establishing a network of backyards filled with pollinator-friendly plants. This network created first by concerned gardeners in Norway allows the pollinators to travel through urban areas more easily. Urban spaces are often bare of the greenery that symbiotically promotes pollinator survival, leaving them lost and struggling among the smog, heat, and other risks to their survival. Without pollination, agriculture cannot thrive. Greenery, such as urban gardens and farms, are the best asset in a city. The plants provide cleaner air, and research has shown that it can reduce stress while boosting well-being. Of the many enlightening resources we encountered this semester, each rich with knowledge capable of further empowering our design, we chose to reference a few key sources in our design. Found in the book Design Like You Give a Damn: Building Change from the Ground Up edited by the Architecture for Humanity, the idea of Papercrete struck us as a great way to reduce waste and cost during the construction of this park, while still creating sturdy and durable seating for patrons of Freedom Park. Papercrete is a strong material made by mixing recycled paper, concrete, and water. Due to the inclusion of recycled materials, it results in a lower ecological footprint than the purchasing of wooden benches would create.
Avoiding needless waste and impact on the environment was important to our design, as there is a fantastic opportunity for the Historical Society to be leaders of sustainable design in urban community spaces by using materials such as Papercrete. Additionally, Papercrete can be used for the “walkable timeline” along which important events–chosen by the members of the community and the Historical Society–can be imprinted cost-effectively. These writings along the path of Papercrete provide a great opportunity for the community to get involved, and to create a lasting mark on their neighborhood. Another source we found very useful was the documentary “Urbanized” (2011), directed by Gary Hustwit. This documentary highlights the successes of the High Line public park in Manhattan. From this urban park’s success, we learned that there is something intrinsically comforting about built spaces that can seamlessly thread into the existing natural environment. The planks of the High Line do not uniformly edge visitors into one straight path. Rather, they bend and jut around the natural flora to coexist peacefully. In our design there is a platform on the ground below the steps and the podium, in the shape of a ship’s bow. As a nod to the whaling industry the design is considerate on its own, but with the threading of the planks in with the grass surrounding the platform, this park says more than a few words about whaling. Nature, so often scare and ignored in the urban environment, has a new role in the revitalization of our Post-Industrial cities. This platform states, peacefully but confidently, that Freedom Park will lead the way as urban designers learn to embrace and cooperate with nature.
Lastly, inspiration for strengthening the urban gardening capability of the lot came from a Green Prophet article. The article, titled “Verizon selects 12 Internet of Things startups that may change your world” describes a product entering the first stages of commercialization that will revolutionize urban farming. Verizon had held a competition looking for innovative new ideas and one of the finalists was called “flux”, a company that makes a device and software for growing food in urban spaces. This device and software combination allows the consumer to grow food anywhere in the world using hydroponics. This water-based grow system allows you to monitor factors like pH and therefore it makes it much easier to grow food no matter who or where you are. All one has to do is put the flux device into water and the app will monitor the nutrients and growth factors, and let flux do the rest in sustainably growing healthy food. This device seemed perfect for our vacant lot because the decorative pond in the back of the lot could then serve a greater purpose: providing food for events, for community members, for teaching local children and adults about the importance of nutrition, and more. By setting these devices in the pond during the warmer months (or in the greenhouse for greater control over growing conditions), lots of nutritious food could be grown there and shared among the community.
Throughout the park, there will be pollinator attracting plants – this will serve a practical purpose as well as being aesthetically pleasing. The idea of our butterfly attracting plants was that the park will serve as a metaphorical “underground railroad” for pollinators. This idea was inspired by a movement that is going on in Europe to create “pollinator highways” through cities, by establishing a network of backyards filled with pollinator-friendly plants. This allows the pollinators to travel through urban areas that can be filled with very little greenery that is friendly to them, smog, heat, and other factors that are detrimental to their survival.
The steps will be kept where they are to serve as a podium. They will have rockcress planted across the front of them for aesthetic purposes, and will be engraved with a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”
Engraved steps and podium: The steps will be kept where they are to serve as a podium. They will have rockcress planted across the front of them for aesthetic purposes, and will be engraved with a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” This is symbolic to the struggle of New Bedford as a post-industrial city and also of the abolitionists who have triumphed over the oppression of slavery.
4. ABOLITIONIST PARK: AN ART MARKET AND A COMMUNITY GARDEN THAT MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Gail Canne -Photography major
Jonas DeCastro -Mechanical Engineering major and Sustainability minor
James Ferguson -Graphic Design major
Jillian Wilson -Marketing major
After researching the history and location of our empty lot, we decided that it would be good idea to have a beautiful place for the artists who study at Star Store to have a place to sell and advertise their art. We wanted to incorporate the history of New Bedford while being able to provide something that will give back to the community. Some of the features we wanted to include in the seventh street lot are a staging area, a sustainable hanging garden, a brick walkway with bioluminescent lamps and historical plaques describing many of the important historical figures from New Bedford.
The Main staging area would be an open stage that provides space for moveable tables, performance space, possible seating, etc. In warmer months, on weekends, AHA! Nights, special occasions, etc., the student artists from the Star Store (or other New Bedford-based artists) can display and sell their work. Simultaneously, the vegetables, flowers, and other produce that is grown from the hanging gardens that surround the space can be sold in a farmers market style setting. Around the border of the staging area there will be a brick walkway and two of the walls will have Evergreen trees lining the property. These trees will provide shade and a natural fence bordering the property. Having these trees surrounding the boundary of the property will help contribute to a strong sense of space when visitors are inside or outside of the space. In front of each individual tree would be a small plaque that depicts an individual who has an important place in the history of New Bedford. The New Bedford Historical Society will benefit from these plaques by providing visitors with educational information as they use the space which may generate more interest and traffic in their building. Pathways will be lined with bioluminescent lights to invite visitors to move through the space even after dark. The bioluminescent lights require no power input whatsoever and are therefore highly sustainable. They also reference New Bedford’s proximity to and reliance on the ocean. Having lighting in our public space will be crucial. The lights activate the space during the nighttime, give visitors a sense of safety, and discourage miscreants and the homeless from using the space. On the walls that are not lined with evergreen trees, the hanging aquaponic gardens will be another sustainable aspect of the lot.
The gardens will be planted in horizontal rows of PVC pipe that resemble the shape of a fence. The gardens are similar to fencing in that they enclose the space, and create some privacy, but differ from a fence by generating a sense of curiosity of what is inside. The spaces in between the plants will let in natural light, and give our space a light, airy feel. The PVC pipe is inexpensive and easy to work with. To involve the local community, we need to be open to new ideas. Members of the community will be able to meet with the New Bedford Historical Society and propose new ideas for the space. Possible ideas entail local musicians using the space to perform, slam poetry-type events, outdoor art galleries, outdoor food vendors, marathon readings, lectures, etc. Our goal is to provide the community with a space that can be used by ALL, and can potentially benefit ALL members of the community. We want to give people reasons to return to the space. If it just a garden and marketplace with the same stuff every week, people will go once and never return. By providing members of the community with a space to showcase what they have to offer, the space is always fresh.
We will be keeping the stairs and using them as an access point to staging
5. ABOLITIONIST WAY FARMERS MARKET: TOWARDS A HYDROPONIC LIFE
Danielle Spinosa – Graphic Design major
Victoria Sarmento – Political Science major and Sustainability minor
Andrew Turgeon – Civil Engineering major and Sustainability minor
Victoria Pacheco – Illustration major
Over the course of this semester our group has worked to develop a hydroponic garden in the vacant lot across from the New Bedford Historical Society. Through extensive research we have come up with a design that would benefit the surrounding community of New Bedford the most. Hydroponics is a process of growing vegetables and plants without using soil. Instead, the plants are grown in nutrient rich solutions in water. We used various sources to collect information on hydroponics. Our inspiration for this idea came from the new hydroponic shipping container that is set to start growing on the campus of UMass Dartmouth. Our group thought that if hydroponic technology could be used to benefit a college community it would also be beneficial for the community in New Bedford.
The design of the garden would be inviting and open to the community. The garden would serve as a farmers market when the vegetables and other plants are ready to harvest. This would take place in the far right corner of the lot to protect it from street traffic. There are various benefits of this design that include both sustainable and economic values. The garden would be made using sustainable materials. It would also help reduce the carbon footprint of the community by using solar power as a source of light and electricity. The farmers market would provide revenue for the community as well as various jobs. A statue of Frederick Douglass would be placed at the entrance of the garden as a reminder of the amazing history New Bedford has to offer.
Freight Farm at UMass Dartmouth
Student Projects, 2013
Students were asked to explore the archival records and study existing books and visual materials regarding one of the following neighborhoods in New Bedford, MA: a) The Waterfront developments (south-end); b) the artists’ studios in the former textile factories (north-end); c) Wamsutta Mill (former textile factory converted into residential units); d) Residential areas in the vicinity of St. Luke’s Hospital; e) Vacant Homes in the west-end. Students were required to revive and re-purpose an abandoned site in one of these neighborhoods.
Group # 1: Reinventing Wamsutta Walls
The Wamsutta Mills site is a section of New Bedford with a rich history and a lasting legacy; it also is an area with an enduring effect on the surrounding community. Revitalizing an area that held such significance to the city could easily be the spark needed to launch similar, possibly larger projects in New Bedford. By turning this area into a park with vertical gardens, we can draw New Bedford residents back to this unused area. Vertical gardens can be implemented almost anywhere because it does not need ground space, but merely a building façade. The type of planters we found most appealing were those made from recycled palettes. These can be found fairly easily, which more or less makes the only cost of the project seeds and soil. For our site, a bottle cap mural could also be a colorful addition that the community could be a part of. It could easily fill in the extra wall space not taken up by gardens. It can virtually decorate any surface and as long as the surface and glue are sturdy enough. Members of the community could participate in its creation and people of any age could add bottle caps, either provided or from their own homes. This would promote recycling materials and would be another way that the community could be engaged. This is a project that is both practical as well as conceptual; it can both provide tangible goods to the community, while highlighting the natural assets of present day New Bedford and simultaneously honoring its past.
The Existing Site
Proposed Plan for Revitalization (visuals)
Group #2: A “Sacred” Green Space in New Bedford
As a group we developed a plan to create a soft architectural design within the Spiritual Warrior Garden in New Bedford, MA. The design would incorporate several levels of thinking, linking it to the surrounding community based on usage and a need for a green house. Implementing standards in sustainability in combination with a specific site (Spiritual Warrior, Sacred Green Space New Bedford) would be a step towards revitalization of New Bedford as a post-industrialized city. The structure we design is a sustainable greenhouse created out of recyclable materials, such as plastic bottles. The Structure would provide a place for community members to inhabit the space, and create a place for educational use as well as for agricultural purposes. The project provides the platform to rejuvenate the community and affects it in a meaningful way.
The Goals of the the project:
1. Educate; 2. Engage Community; 3. Influence better nutrition; 4. Spur economic development; 5. Revitalize the natural environment; 6. Increase cultural, spiritual and sustainable awareness; 7. Reuse/repurpose materials
Materials: 1,500 plastic bottles, Re-purposed wood posts, Used tires
Collaboration with Local Community Members
Reflections from a Local Urban Farmer
“As you know for artists and activists alike, there are many times when we are standing alone wondering if anyone is with us, if anyone sees us, if anyone can appreciate our true efforts and so it has been my tremendous pleasure to be mutually inspired by students in this class. It has been like a gift from God… that your students happened to walk by my urban farm…. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, just knowing that young people understand and appreciate my efforts is proof enough for me that I am on the right track.”
Recyclable Greenhouse – Ideas
Group #3: Turning an Abandoned Site into a Park
For our project we chose the Wamsutta Mill in New Bedford. Our first idea was to turn the mill area into sectioned studio areas. We thought of creating community work rooms that would be a place for community members to get together to come up with ideas that would be put into use to sustainably renew the town. In this sense, artists could easily work with the community to create these new areas. Even schools could get into starting programs to get kids interested in sustainability. After visiting the site we found it would be more efficient to revitalize the outside of the buildings as well as the land around the mills. We were still able to keep some of our original ideas, especially those regarding community involvement. Our new focus was to create a park area to inspire more social activities. In our first idea which we then incorporated into our new plan, we proposed to install an outdoor movie screen into the end of the parking lot that could be used for art shows or community movie screenings. On the back side of the building there is a trail that we wanted to clean up; so, we proposed adding a wooded bridge path (see images below). We also included seating areas for the community to enjoy, along with raised garden beds that would allow for growing fresh fruits and vegetables. Along the side of the path there is also a small pond. Inspired by a current project being worked on in Dubai we added a roof top park that would allow more open area around the mills which currently is mostly covered by cement. Allowing easy access would get the community to get together more often and to enjoy the park.
Snapshot from the Past
The Site as it stands today
Analyzing the Site (old dilapidated mill)
Reinventing the Site
Group #4: Making Use of Recycled Fishing Ropes
We are proposing a sculpture park at an empty lot located at 0 Church St and Chaffee St, New Bedford, MA 02745. We propose to create an opportunity to invite local and visiting artists to create temporary artwork for display. These works may be created only by using recycled materials from the surrounding South Coast community. Community out-reach programs would work in tandem with artists to help make the work. We also want to make sure that artists become more involved with the community. There are neighborhoods that surround the area, but the people in these neighborhoods do not have a place for public gatherings and community events. We want this park to be the central place where people can socialize. Areas for play and places to picnic would also be added aside from the sculptures themselves. The materials that we would like to use are recycled fishing ropes (see below image), car tires, and other locally available materials (such as used Dunkin Donuts cups). The initial project was written as a grant proposal. We hope to develop our ideas and submit this proposal to a number of organizations for funding and support. The following video demonstrates some of our efforts in the past three months.
Use of Local Resources
Group #5: New Bedford Green Educational Park
Our goal is to create an entertainment area for children in downtown New Bedford. We want to get their hands dirty while learning about where their food comes from. A problem for many urban children is a lack of nutritious, natural, and fresh foods. This is due to reasons such as lack of education for children and parents, lack of money to purchase these healthy foods, or lack of fresh foods in food assistance programs. Our design idea will allow for each of those issues to be dealt with. This would create a location for children to be educated on things such as growing and eating healthy food, while being able to have an active part in the process. Once the produce is ready to be harvested, the children may try different things and even bring some home for their families. The park is centralized around a sculptural shelter piece that creates a central core for the project. This part of the project makes a connection back to nature by the reuse and recycling of materials into something beneficial. This structure would provide a space for educational purposes. Some of these educational programs may be to hold classes to teach children and parents about healthy food, or a place for art students to work on sustainable projects. Inspiration for the sculptural aspects comes from the nature of New Bedford; waves of the ocean, whale bones, and the nature of viney plants. The part of this project which brings everything together is the raised garden beds. These gardens help draw in the community for a project to do together, bringing them closer. Being raised they help to reduce the effects of any ground pollution. The gardens are to be used for educational purposes, teaching social skills along with physical skills and mental challenges. All of the materials for the structure and garden beds would be reclaimed or recycled. Wood from old buildings and used shipping pallets would be used to build the garden beds and the interactive structure. Reclaimed linen fibers would also be used in the construction of the sculpture, as a composite insulation and a way to fasten together the parts. To help lower the impact of this site, we have decided to use rain collection barrels which would provide the supply used to water the plants. This system is made from multiple 55 gallon barrels, which may be obtained from many previous uses. These barrels are then fixed with a spigot which would allow the user to transfer water from the barrel into whatever is to be used to water the plants. Our design includes a cover for the barrels made from recycled soda cans to help catch the water. The top of the cans are cut off, and the sharp edges are bent over. Holes are then punched in the bottom of the can to allow water to pass through, but not object such as leaves which may clog the system. The cans are then arranged in a circle to fit the top of the barrel. This top may be taken off to remove leaves and other object which may be blocking the holes.
Presenting the Rainwater Collection System (using recycled cans)
Envisioning the Education Corner